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Elgar Parishad case: NIA moves court for probe files; state to present case on Feb 3

By HT Correspondents
PUBLISHED ON JAN 31, 2020 12:14 AM IST

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday moved a Pune sessions court, seeking possession of all documents and material related to the Elgar Parishad probe by Pune Police, even as the Maharashtra government continued to look at more legal options to challenge the probe’s transfer from the state to the Central agency.

The state will present its case in court on February 3.

While the state’s home, law and judiciary departments said the government had no legal crutch to challenge the Centre’s decision, legal experts felt the state could point to the advanced stage of the Pune Police’s probe to seek permission to continue with the investigation.

The Centre, empowered by a provision in the NIA Act, had last week directed the NIA to take over the Elgar Parishad case, which was being investigated for suspected Maoist links.

The police were investigating whether provocative speeches were made at the conclave held on December 31, 2017, which allegedly led to caste-based violence in Bhima-Koregaon the next day. One person was killed in the violent clashes.

“The [NIA] Act mentions concurrent jurisdiction [when two or more courts from different systems have jurisdiction over a case simultaneously] and by using it, we are tapping into the possibility of asking for permission to continue with the ongoing probe. The probe is at an advanced stage and Pune Police have already filed two charge sheets. If not the entire probe, the state police should be allowed to continue with a partial probe,” said a highly placed officer in the home department.

On NIA moving court, a defence lawyer said an application was submitted by an NIA officer in the court of additional sessions judge SR Navander, scheduled under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Rohan Nahar, an advocate representing one of the accused, Varavara Rao, a Telugu poet, said, “An application was made by NIA for transfer of all records and proceedings to a special NIA court, Bombay. It also indicated that a fresh NIA FIR was registered on January 27, 2020.” The Pune Police on Monday refused to granted NIA officials access to the case papers, saying they had no instructions from the state director-general of police (DGP).

Home minister Anil Deshmukh told Hindustan Times that the state government will present its say in the sessions court by Monday. “We have received the file from the home department with the opinion from the law and judiciary department. We are seeking advice from legal experts too. We have got three more days to take a decision,” he said.

Deshmukh has also alleged that the case has been shifted to the NIA to cover up the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence. He said the BJP government at the Centre wants to save “some people” related to right-wing outfits.

Meanwhile, defence lawyers will be opposing the NIA’s move, citing the lack of legal provisions for a court to take such a decision suo motu. The state representative, district government pleader (DGP) Ujwala Pawar, will be filing a response to the NIA application on Monday. The court has also scheduled on Monday a hearing in the case between the accused and the Pune Police.

The nine arrested accused in the case are lodged at Yerawada Central Jail.

Rights activists and workers of the Dalit movement were booked for making provocative speeches at the December 31, 2017 conclave-Elgaar Parishad-, organised at Shaniwar Wada in Pune. The activists were arrested and booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). After the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government — comprising Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress — NCP chief Sharad Pawar had last month alleged the Pune Police misused its power and arrested writers and activists for raising their voice against the state.

Last week, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh had held a review meeting with top home department officials and officers from Pune Police last week. The state was considering setting up a special investigation team (SIT) to review the case. Deshmukh had said the decision about constituting a SIT will be taken after more details sought from the investigating officers were submitted. The Centre, however, shifted the case to the NIA on Friday.

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